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CULTURE DIGEST: Tony Blair establishes 'Faith Foundation' to promote respect for religions
Posted on Apr 27, 2012 | by Staff

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- Calling faith "a powerful force for good in the modern world," former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has established the Tony Blair Faith Foundation to promote respect and understanding about the world's major religions.

The idea for the foundation was formed during Blair's time in government, he said.

'I began to analyze conflict in the world and found the majority had a religious or cultural element.' -- Tony Blair
"Even before 9/11 and certainly since then, I could see that the use of hard power and even the use of traditional systems of soft power were inadequate to deal with a strain of fundamentalist ideology that was religious in nature," Blair said at the Global Philanthropy Forum in Washington April 16.

The extremism, Blair said, was not based simply on a set of political aims but on a "profound distortion of faith."

"I began to analyze conflict in the world and found the majority had a religious or cultural element. I became convinced that we could not confront the extremism unless we were prepared to engage with religion as religion, not as a derivative of politics," Blair said.

As people of different cultures and faiths "mix together, live together and work together as never before" amid the unstoppable force of globalization, understanding and learning to accept other religions becomes crucial to securing peace, the former prime minister said.

The Tony Blair Faith Foundation is designed in part to improve young people's religious literacy, according to its website, helping them understand that "faith is an essential part of the modern world" and "is not something either old-fashioned or to be used for extremism."

"Rather, faith is something that has much to give and to teach a world in which economic globalization and political change is offering many opportunities but also presenting many dangers," Blair wrote on the website, tonyblairfaithfoundation.org.

GROUPON BOYCOTTED OVER PORNOGRAPHY PROMOTION -- Morality In Media is leading a boycott of the popular coupon company Groupon after it offered discounts on tours of a pornography studio in San Francisco.

The studio, housed in a historic armory, is particularly known for its use of torture, and visitors may encounter live filming in process, according to an NBC Chicago blog.

Groupon's market is primarily composed of women customers, and Morality In Media decried the company for supporting the objectification and humiliation of women, including teenage girls.

When Dawn Hawkins, executive director of Morality In Media, wrote to Groupon urging that the company stop offering discounts for the tours, a customer support representative wrote back saying the company "didn't intend to offend anyone."

"We've run deals with this specific business before, and while we realize it may not appeal to everyone, we've received positive customer feedback on past offers," the Groupon representative wrote.

"We thoroughly vet the businesses we feature, which is why we take these concerns seriously," the email continued. "Fortunately, this business has proven to be a responsible member of their community and the tour offered in this deal is historical and informational in nature."

For more information about the boycott, visit waronillegalpornography.com.

ALA. REP CONFESSES ABORTING FIRST CHILD -- Alabama state Rep. Ed Henry confessed he "murdered [his] first child" to fellow pro-lifers gathered April 12 outside the state capitol in Montgomery.

Henry, a sponsor of a pro-life life bill in his first term as a Republican in the state legislature, told the rally audience he went with his girlfriend for her abortion 20 years before, the Times Daily of Florence, Ala., reported.

While they both chose abortion, he accepts most of the responsibility, said Henry, 41. "There was discussion and talk about it, but I do feel a heavy burden from the decision," he said.

The reality of what he had done struck him when he accompanied his wife for a check-up when she was 12 weeks pregnant with their first of two daughters.

"I saw that ultrasound of my baby, my child, and it came down on me like a ton of bricks that I had murdered my first child. And I will carry that with me to the grave," Henry told the pro-life audience. He was 30 years old at the time.

Henry proposed legislation to bar Alabama's exchange plan under the 2010 federal health care reform law from covering abortion.

He said he had not intended to tell his post-abortion story at the rally, but he also has not tried to hide it. He has shared it with his church and at least one other group, Henry said, according to the Times Daily.

"I will fight to save babies all day long, and I will live with my regret for the rest of my life," Henry said.

PLANNED PARENTHOOD SPOKESMAN JOINS OBAMA ADMINISTRATION -- The Obama administration has hired a Planned Parenthood spokesman to be one of its spokesmen.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced April 20 its hiring of Tait Sye, media director of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, as its deputy assistant secretary for public affairs, Politico reported. Sye had served in the PPFA position for more than four years before accepting the HHS offer, according to the report.

Sye participated in PPFA's defense of the HHS abortion/contraceptive mandate issued in January. That rule requires all health plans to cover contraceptives and sterilizations as preventive services without cost to employees. The contraceptives, as designated by the federal government, include some drugs that can cause abortions by blocking implantation of tiny embryos.

Sye is expected to deal with abortion and contraception as part of HHS communications involving the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, Politico reported.

"Personnel is policy.... This is one more example of how intertwined the Obama administration is with the abortion industry and Planned Parenthood," Americans United for Life President Charmaine Yoest told Politico.

FERTILITY CLINIC ADVERTISES SEX SELECTION -- A fertility clinic in Washington state is promoting its sex-selection business to Indians living in British Columbia.

The Washington Center for Reproductive Medicine in the Seattle-area city of Bellevue is advertising its "gender determination" service in the Indo-Canadian Voice, a newspaper that targets people from India living in the far western province of Canada, the Vancouver Sun reported April 17. The ad has appeared in the paper's print edition and on its website.

The ad shows a young boy and girl in traditional Indian dress with the headline: "Create The Family You Want BOY or GIRL." It describes the service this way: "Pre-conception gender determination for family balancing purposes."

The clinic tests embryos it creates to determine their sex, then implants in the mother's womb those chosen for in vitro fertilization. Embryos not implanted typically are placed in frozen storage, destroyed or donated for research, which kills them.

The ad demonstrates the low esteem of females in the Indo-Canadian community, said Sabrina Atwal, a project director for the Indo-Canadian Women's Association in Edmonton.

"A lot of times, girls are fighting for their lives before they're even born," Atwal said, according to the Sun.

A preference for sons is common among Indians in their home country and other countries, and advanced technology has enabled them to act on that preference in implantation and giving birth. That preference exists in the Indo-Canadian community because of dowries and the perception sons are more able to take care of their parents, Atwal said.

"There's a belief that the family's not complete until there's a boy," she told the Sun.

A study issued April 16 found Indian- and South Korean-born women in Canada have boys as second babies at a disproportionately high rate, according to the Sun.

"Our findings raise the possibility that couples originating from India may be more likely than Canadian-born couples to use prenatal sex determination and terminate a second or subsequent pregnancy if the fetus is female," the study reported.
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Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach and Washington bureau chief Tom Strode. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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